On October 11, 2012, an 18 year-old girl was found murdered and decapitated in the Durrës District of Albania. The victim, Ajshe Vata, was a good and honest girl who had a religious background. At the time of her death, she was not known to be in a relationship and was doing very well at the Muslim High School she attended. But Ajshe had a secret.
Written by: Mimoza Haxhihyseni, Scientific Police Institute in Tirana
For years, the Vata family had good relations with their neighbor, Shaban Norja. At age 80, he frequently visited their house, yet he did not have honorable intentions. For four years, Shaban sexually abused Ajshe’s older sister, threatening her reputation with the village if she were to tell anyone.
Eventually, Ajshe’s father found out about the abuse of his daughter and severed all ties to Shaban, yet didn’t report him to the police, as he felt guilty for not preventing the abuse. Little did he know that Shaban was also abusing his younger daughter, Ajshe, at the same time.
According to her father, Ajshe was a shy girl who did not talk about her private life (even with close confidants like her sisters). “She was never an easygoing girl”, her father said, “she did not go out of home that often and she did not have a lot of friends in the village or at school”.
Ajshe later discovered that she was pregnant and informed Shaban, who became nervous and agitated, and tried to force her to terminate the pregnancy. She refused to abort, citing her own Muslim principles and stating she was not allowed to have an abortion. Allegedly, Ajshe told Shaban, “You can kill me, cut my head, but I will never abort the baby”. So, one night, he did just that; raping her and then killing her with a gunshot to her head from a TT model pistol. He then decapitated her to throw the investigation off track and lead investigators to the family of the victim. The severed head of the victim was found 150 meters from the crime scene with a gunshot wound visible on it.
More than 20 genetic profiles were obtained, among them three mixtures that came from varied biological traces (semen secretions, vaginal secretions, anal secretions, and epithelial secretions). Every possibility of an incest case was excluded after comparing the fetus’ DNA profile with profiles from other male family members.
After examining and analyzing all of the evidence from the crime scene, the victim reference samples (including the 11-12 weeks fetus,) and all the suspect reference samples; the results were interpreted in only 20 hours.
Only after the third arrest and being confronted with the hard evidence of the DNA analysis, did Shaban, a previous offender, admit to being the murderer of Ajshe. He confessed to the place where he buried the severed head, the tool used (an axe), and admitted to being the father of the fetus.
Among the countless evidence, the prosecutor presented the DNA analysis, which unquestionably proved that the 80-year-old suspect was the father of the unborn fetus. According to the attorney, the murder was planned for three weeks. “The Monster of Durrës” was sentenced with 25 years of imprisonment.
Even the judge herself, Sh.P. declared that the “Norja” case is one of most voluminous files and one of the most gruesome cases in their history.
Mimoza and the team who worked on the case.
Mimoza Haxhihyseni is a forensic DNA expert at the Scientific Police Institute in Tirana, Albania, where she has worked since 2001. She has been certificated seven times from the Forensic Science Service (FSS England), and has resolved tens of thousands of hard criminal cases in Albania, that involve blood, saliva, semen, sweat, and hair examinations.
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